Monday, May 17, 2010

Sri Lanka - Tourism heavyweights say industry can bridge budget deficits, but more needs to be done

By Jayantha de Silva

Greater growth in the tourism trade can help bridge budget deficits, says an industry expert.

"We have to do more to catch up with rest of the Asia," said Sri Lal Mittapala, President of the Tourists Hotel Association of Sri Lanka.

He was speaking at the 18th annual general meeting of the Institute of Hospitality recently.

Tourism is seen as a panacea for all ills. Currently, many experts are carrying out research into ways of boosting tourism revenues and the industry is expected to bridge budget deficits with a greater development, he added.

He said the Tourism Act, passed in 1967, only seemed to offer a lip service to the industry.

"Tourism is a thrust industry and Asia is the current favourite destination for tourists at the time," he said.

Mittapala also said: "However, Sri Lanka has failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Sri Lanka earns US$ 400,000 per annum from tourism while Malaysia earns US$ 10 billion."

He emphasized that a multi-tier effort has been initiated to boost tourism industry which employees around 60,000 people directly.

There are 14,700 rooms built by the private sector. Twenty-three hotels each with 50 rooms and in addition several hotels with 30 to 40 rooms are currently constructed and only one project, which is in Beruwela, will have 175 rooms.

To achieve the high development expected in the industry, he called for a mega construction effort with both private and state sector participation.

"It is necessary to upgrade the industry; Colombo should be constructed as a convention city," Mittapala said.

Citing both Singapore and India he also called for the establishment of a gaming city with casinos to attract more high spending tourists which could boost the foreign exchange earnings of the country.

"This will increase the average yield spent by tourists, rising from US$ 80 to US$ 175; due to the war the room rates became cheap. However, the industry displayed resilience, and now we are witnessing a pent-up demand. This scenario would soon peter off,"he said.

Roshan Perera was elected as the new President for the Institute of Hospitality.

In his inaugural address, he pointed out the dearth of manpower faced by the industry and called for a co-ordinated action plan to overcome the problem.

Hiran Cooray, Chairman, Pacific Asia Tourists Association, painting an optimistic future for the industry, said: "We are onto a promising future."

source -

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